Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feedback


My friend Carl Fisher authors a blog called Reflections. It is a very entertaining blog about his life adventures backpacking, training for another half-marathon, stock market impressions, etc. Because of his blog, I started mine.

He and I recently had a chance to talk and Carl gave me some feedback about my blog. He noted to me that although he enjoyed the writing, it was all about individuals. He suggested I write more about business experiences with Change Management. I initially refuted him arguing that individuals are the ones who make up businesses. Aren’t they? Then I remembered my own advice that I have been providing to customers – ensure that you build formal and informal feedback mechanisms into every change plan.

Whenever change occurs to an individual or an organization, resistance is created. The amount of resistance depends on many factors, but be sure, there is resistance to some degree. An effective change management plan does not eliminate the resistance; the plan effectively manages the resistance. Part of that plan must be feedback.

We can only plan so well based on our experiences and interpretations. We anticipate reactions and plan to manage them. But we don’t know every reaction until it occurs. Effectively establishing feedback channels allows us to receive information about the accuracy of our plans and adjust to the reaction of our business teams (or the opinions of our audience).

In my next blog, I’ll note the primary reasons I have discovered for teams not setting up feedback channels and some of their results. For now, think of each piece of feedback as a chunk of the lottery coming back to you. It helps you grow and serve your audience better.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who will attend my funeral?

One of the great concepts in this life is that we can learn something from everyone we meet. If we take the time to listen to everyone who enters our life, we will learn a world of information. Don’t wait for teachers only; allow everyone to be your teacher.

My brother-in-law recently became a teacher for me by relaying a simple story. He was attending a funeral for one of his relatives and began to reminisce about the funeral of our father-in-law 2 years ago. Our wives are twin sisters and their father, Chuck, passed away very unexpectedly in April of 2007.

As my brother-in-law thought back to that date in 2007, he realized how popular Chuck was by the number of people who attended his funeral. Chuck didn’t do anything special in his life to be popular and yet he did the most special thing possible. Chuck wasn’t a public figure, didn’t have millions of dollars, didn’t attend public events, didn’t socialize with the ‘in’ crowd and yet he had so many friends. The most special part of Chuck was his ability to accept and appreciate everyone he met for who they were.

Both my brother-in-law and I began to do some self-analysis. We asked the questions who will attend my funeral and why? That led me to a great exercise. I created a list of those who I think will attend right now. I followed this with a list of whom I want to attend, but are not on the original list. Then I looked at the second list and started to document what would compel them to attend. Based on this list, I started a list of what I want to accomplish in the rest of my life in order to create this compelling need. What I ended up with was a purpose for my life.

By figuring out what would compel others to attend my funeral and the accomplishments I need to make in order to create that compelling need, I discovered the purpose for my life. And what could be more important than determining your purpose? Winning the lottery won’t tell me my purpose, but finding my purpose has helped me win the lottery.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Iterative Life II

My previous entry discussed the ability we have to use Ctrl Z (the undo button) and go back in time to make new decisions. As far as we know right now, we can’t actually go back in time (like Michael J Fox did in Back To The Future) and adjust our lives. However, we always have the ability to use our minds to go back to a previous time, review the options again with a new perspective and make a new decision. The way to do this can be very easy. You just need to take the time.

Each day take some time out to reflect back on your life. My friend Carl does a great job of this and writes a blog about it. You can use the time you have just before you fall asleep, just as you wake up, during your drive into the office or the time you spend in the shower; just take the time.

During that time, think back and visualize yourself in the last setting where you made a life-changing decision. Think about the process you used and the information you used to make the decision. Now bring with you all the knowledge you have gained between then and now. Look at all the options you had then and bring in all the new options you have discovered since. Now the whole world is open to you again and you can make a new decision on how to direct your life – your new life. The thinking back part is easy; the tough part is overcoming the fear and making the decision. That is for another time.

After my Mom enlightened me to this feature in the Free Cell game, I began to review my life and wonder what new decisions I could make. I also began to question where I had used this without even realizing it. Within a few weeks of writing this down in my journal, I met several people who did just that. I’ll give you their stories in future blogs.

Remember, every new opportunity we get in life is another lottery winning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ctrl Z For Your Brain

These times are tough for most people – anyone who requires steady income to pay for the basic necessities of life. Many companies are downsizing or ‘right-sizing’. Whatever words you want to use, it still means many are losing their jobs and that steady income. To me this is just another form of change; drastic change maybe, but still change.

Most people have a difficult time with change because they can’t see a new future. Their minds continue to picture their world, as it was – same company, same role, same colleagues and same drive to work as they always had. A new view is needed in order to effectively drive forward or weather the storm; whichever you prefer.

My Mom helped me figure out a good process for this while playing a game. I was playing Free Cell on my laptop one day when she came over. I was stuck and ready to quit the game. She said I should use Control Z – hold down the Ctrl button and click Z.

“What’s that,” I asked. She said it was the undo button. WOW, an undo button!

“You mean I can go back, move by move until I feel good about starting again?”

“Yup!”

“Isn’t that cheating?”

“Why would they put it in the game if it was cheating?” she replied. Great point Mom!

Life’s not much different. We move through it making choices and ‘moves’ until we get stuck. Often we quit at that point feeling like a failure because we haven’t ‘won the game’. In reality, we can stay in the game by hitting Ctrl Z in our minds until we get back to a comfortable spot, and then make new decisions. The new decisions can now be made with all the lessons we learned while following the first path.

The opportunities that life provides us to use Ctrl Z and make new decisions based on all the lessons we have learned and the growth we have made are real blessings. They are not tragedies, failures or disappointments. They are another way we win the lottery.

I’ll detail more of my process around Ctrl Z in my next blog!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winning the Lottery with Theresa

As a Change Consultant I am very fortunate to meet many people at different customer sites. That is one of the benefits that helped convince me to make the career shift to consulting and I have not been disappointed. Everyone I meet has a wonderful story to tell and each teaches or reinforces something to me. One of the greatest reinforcement lessons I learned came in the past few months.

I was contracted by a local organization mainly to help implement two projects. As part of the transition of these projects to me by the current project manager, I was told that one of the team members on the project had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. Likely, she would continue to be off intermittently while receiving treatments. I was told further that this person had such great spirit that most people wouldn’t even know about her diagnosis. That was absolutely true.

In the first few meetings with the project team, I completely forgot about this information. I was routinely meeting with Theresa and Scott, the primary business leads, and occasionally with the IT group. The only thing I noticed was that Theresa had a flair for wearing great hats.

Everyday she came in with a different hat on. Each matched her outfit perfectly. Whether it was a beret, cloche, fedora, floppy brim, medium brim or a simple baseball cap, she always wore them with style. Her hats became part of her ensemble like her wedding ring – they just fit, as did she. I was shocked to find out she was the one with cancer; now the hats made more sense. Just as Theresa likely did with everything in her life, she made a seeming necessity fit routinely, yet stylishly within her makeup.

As I was introduced to more employees at the customer site, I began to notice that many of them had their workstations decorated with a deep ‘homey’ touch. Each was unique in color, style and d├ęcor, but all felt more like walking into a living room than an office cubicle. I wasn’t surprised when I was told Theresa had decorated them. She made me feel at home whether it was with her decorations or her warm, open personality. It only made sense that she made cubicles feel like home.

In the 4 months that I worked with Theresa, I never caught a hint of sorrow, self-pity, doubt or anger. She accepted her challenge and portrayed a person of full health, ready to live a great life for 50 more years. Even though we knew the toll her treatments had to be taking on her, she never flinched. She showed up at the office everyday with spunk, drive, full of vitality, ready to take on the world. No one would have thought less of her had she let her goals lapse, but that’s not Theresa. She simply added recovery to her set of goals and moved forward.

I found out recently that Theresa’s last exam revealed a new situation and the news was not good; not good for me and all the others who know her. I’m confident that this next journey for Theresa will be met with the same passion and zest that she has shown me these past 4 months.

For me, my journey with her ends much too soon. She reinforced for me so strongly the need to love life, to attack it with vigor, yet at the same time, care for it as gently as I would my baby boys. Life can be an endless journey of opportunities and achievements or as fleeting as the presence of lilac in Spring. Either way, it is precious and without comparison – just like Theresa. I went beyond winning the lottery when I met this lady with the hat.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lottery Winnings from the Super Bowl

Another Super Bowl Sunday has passed with the usual gathering of family and friends, tons of food and the excitement of an oh-so-close victory. This year was a little different for me because I won the lottery while the game was being played. Winning had nothing to do with the game itself or any pools I participated in (which were for entertainment purposes only). The lottery came in a lesson.

As part of my consulting for change management, I promote the wonderful old saying; “you learn something new every day.” My version has an added point “…and you reinforce something every day.” In my world, most of the time, if you learn something today, but forget it tomorrow, it served little purpose. But to learn something new each day and reinforce something each day, those learnings eventually become habits. Habits then are run more by your subconscious mind leaving your conscious mind free to learn even more. Super Bowl Sunday reinforced a lesson to me.

My Mother-In-Law, like everyone else who attended the party, brought over a dish that started with the first letter of her first name. Her name is Carol, so she brought chili. She has two recipes and both are great. Her problem this day was that she was missing cumin for her recipe. She called me and I assured her that we had some and pulled what I thought was cumin out of the spice cupboard.

When she arrived, she looked suspicious at the unmarked container of ground spice. She then caught a bit of the fragrance and immediately told me she thought this was ground cloves and not cumin. I assured her several times that I had never purchased cloves in my life, so this had to be cumin. She reluctantly added it to the chili, but the smell of the chili provided even stronger evidence for her case. The more she expressed her belief about the cloves, the more I resisted and built on my argument against it.

As it turned out, she was 100% right. The ‘cumin’ wasn’t cumin. Although the chili was still good, it wasn’t her great chili. But the chili itself was not the issue, my attitude was.

I teach my children never to say something is certain unless it really is; otherwise, state, “I think…” Even if you are certain, it’s often better to state “I think” first. Those two little words make your statements more acceptable to others. In my mind, each time you are ‘certain’, but are wrong, you tear down at your credibility and build up your know-it-all reputation. And no one likes a know-it-all. I acted like a know-it-all.

How in the world could I win the lottery from ruining someone’s chili? I won by learning and reinforcing something every day. I reinforced 2 lessons on Super Bowl Sunday. The first is that my children will always learn more from my actions than they will from my words – live what you teach your children. I didn’t do that, but I will remember to. The second was the lesson I try to teach them every day; never make being right more important than the truth. I allowed my arrogance to continue to argue a point that was wrong. Oh yeah, I got up Monday morning, looked deeper into the cupboard and found the cumin and it didn’t look anything like the container I thought. Lessons are greater than money any day.